following list, decide which features you require BEFORE
buying your machine as they cannot be added after. That
said, don`t pay for features you will never use.
Entry Model to GBP199.00
In this price range, quantity is very often considered
more important than quality. Customers will regularly
decide to purchase one machine over another because it
has more built in stitches. However, when you consider
that the vast majority of sewing will be done using the
straight or zig zag stitch, the amount of built in
stitches becomes less important.
Having 30 fancy stitches is not very helpful when your
machine is struggling to stitch the heading tape to your
half made curtains! Therefore, basic quality, width and
/ or length adjustment, and, if you intend to use them,
buttonholes (1 step or 4 step) are all important
considerations and the number decorative stitches should
only be a factor if they are going to be used regularly.
GBP200.00 to GBP249.00
In this price range, the machine should have a top
loading bobbin and also be equipped with adjustable foot
pressure and a heavy duty feed dog. A hard cover should
be supplied and an automatic needle threader may also be
GBP250.00 to GBP849.00
In this price range, the machine will be computerised
having features such as various buttonhole styles
(including keyhole) and stitch memory. It may also have
built in alphabet and numbers.
GBP850.00 to Top of the Range
In this price range, the machine will have automatic
hoop embroidery capabilities, built in embroidery
designs and computer link.
Front or Top Loading Bobbin
This is where the bobbin case has to be removed from the
machine so the bobbin can be loaded into it. Found
mostly in the lower price bracket, this mechanism has
been around for years. Also known as a CB (central
bobbin) machine, the hook oscillates back and forth
around the bobbin case picking up the thread and forming
the stitch. Although not as refined as the top loader,
kept lubricated and free of lint and it will give little
Unlike the front loading design, the bobbin case remains
in place for threading and only has to be removed for
cleaning. This system is easier to use as the bobbin
drops in from the top and if fitted with a see thru
plate, the amount of thread left on the bobbin can be
easily seen. Other advantages are because the hook
rotates rather than oscillates the machine is quieter
running, causes less vibration and less likely to jam.
Some manufacturers use a combination of the two and
produce an industrial type system which is front loading
but rotary. This mechanism has similar qualities to the
top loading mechanism.
Flat Bed / Free Arm
Today, it will be difficult to buy a machine without
this facility. An attachment box or table can be removed
from the machine converting it from a flat bed to free
arm. The free arm can be used for any difficult to sew
areas but especially trouser hems, etc.
Separate Length / Width Controls
Some machines, mainly in the lower price bracket will
not have adjustable length AND width controls. Instead
of 3 dials (stitch selector, length and width) they only
have 1 (where the width and length are preset for all
patterns) or 2 (usually stitch selector with variable
length). It is a huge advantage to anyone who will be
using more than just the straight stitch to have
separate length and width controls so each stitch
pattern can be set exactly to suit the fabric.
Adjustable Foot Pressure
Again, this is more or less standard on mid range
machines and above. This facility is a must when sewing
bulky materials (such as fleece) which can be difficult
for the machine to feed evenly. The presser foot
pressure can be increased making the feed dog grip the
material and sew perfect even stitches. The pressure can
be reduced when sewing delicate materials such as silk
which may easily mark.
Some machines have "automatic" foot pressure, the idea
being the pressure adjusts for the thickness of material
placed under the foot. In theory, a good idea but in
practice, these machines may not cope with the full
range of fabric weights.
6 or 7 Piece Feed Dog
The quadrilateral 6 or 7 piece box feed dog helps grip
the fabric as it is being sewn delivering perfect even
stitches. Excellent for buttonholes and other satin
Nearly all machines have an automatic buttonhole
facility. 4 step buttonholes, where the user turns a
dial to sew each side of the buttonhole are mostly on
the entry models. The 1 step buttonhole is by far the
easiest and a must for users who regularly sew
buttonholes. The button is loaded into the buttonhole
foot and the machine will sew the 4 sides of the
buttonhole in 1 step to match the size of the button.
Special stitches, available on all except the most basic
where the machine sews backwards automatically as well
as forwards to achieve various stitch patterns. Handy
not only when sewing stretch fabrics but also for when
reinforcing seams, overlocking or when decorative
stitching is required.
Electronic Speed Limiter
This refers to an adjustable slide which sets the
maximum speed that the machine will sew with the foot
control fully depressed. Therefore, you don`t have to
"hover" your foot over the foot control to sew at a
steady speed. Very handy when quilting or sewing around
curves, corners, etc. Machines with this adjustment also
have the Needle Up / Down feature (See Below).
AC and DC motors
AC motors are usually found on basic to mid range
machines. DC motors are often fitted in computerised
machines or mechanical machines which have electronic
DC motors have the advantage of being more controllable
and offer better needle penetration at slower speeds.
Needle Up / Down
This button lowers the needle into the material so you
don`t have to turn the balance wheel.
Handy for pivoting around corners, etc.
When the machine stops, the last stitch will have been
completed and the needle will always stop at the end of
the needle bar stroke.
Auto Lock Seam Stitch
Found on computerised machines, this feature locks the
stitch by automatically reversing at the start of the
Again found on computerised machines, this enables the
user to string patterns together.
This is a guide built into the machine which recommends
which presser foot, tension, stitch width and stitch
length to use for that particular stitch. Like having
the instruction book in front of you at all times.
Mostly found on computerised machines but also on some
Built in needle threaders are helpful but certainly not
essential. A small hook locates behind the needle and
through the eye. The thread is then placed into the hook
and is taken through the eye as the hook is withdrawn.
Modern tension units give very few problems provided
they are threaded correctly and so automatic tensions
don`t have huge advantages over regular tension units.
Leaving the tension dial midway, around 4 or 5 (on a 0
to 10 scale) and providing the same thickness of thread
is used both top and bottom, the tension dial should
rarely need adjusting whether automatic or not.
Only handy for users who do free hand embroidery or
darning. If the machine does not have this facility then
it will have a plate to cover the feed.